Col Santi told The Phuket News this morning that he has received a direct order from his superiors to keep all people except police investigators away from the wreck.
“We received an order from the Commander of the Royal Army Region 4 (the Regional Army base for all of Southern Thailand, located in Nakhon Sri Thammarat) to keep unauthorised people away from the boat,” Col Santi said.
“We are co-ordinating with the Royal Thai Navy, Royal Thai Police and others to make sure this is done. Officers will be posted at the site until the investigation is done,” he said.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat ordered the wreck to be off limits to all persons everyone except the appointed investigating team on Sunday.
“The boat has been impounded and all people not directly involved in the investigation are banned from the vessel until the investigation has fully concluded,” Mr Weerasak said.
“This is a decision agreed by the Chinese Ambassador and the Thai Government. It is for the best investigation as it is priority case for both countries,” he added. (See story here.)
However, many people – mostly members of the press – gained close access to the boat after it was pulled onto the hardstand at Ratanachai Shipyard yesterday. (See story here.)
Subsequently, the Thai-language Daily News has reported with photos loose concrete blocks inside the wreck that were presumably being used as ballast.
The report noted that there was an estimated three tons of the blocks in the bottom of the boat. (See story here.)
Of note, the Marine Department itself reported on its Facebook page yesterday that inspectors had already identified damage to the Phoenix, specifically that the ballast fitted to the boat had shifted and the boat was no longer balanced in the water – a factor that complicated the process of lifting the boat from the water earlier yesterday. (See story here.)
Contacted by The Phuket News this morning, Royal Thai Police Deputy Chief Gen Rungrot Saengkram declined to comment on the concrete blocks, and asked for the press to wait for Immigration Bureau Chief Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn to comment.
Gen Surachate is conducting an inspection of the boat at the shipyard today.
Following the media melee yesterday, Col Santi today told The Phuket News, “That happened very quickly, but we now have officers in place and people are not allowed to approach the boat. The area is off-limits.”
“Sorry, but we need to block off this area. We are now warning people it is now ‘No entry’,” Col Santi repeated.